LAHORE: What is the point to celebrating Labour Day as a national holiday every year if workers, whose contribution to economy is pivotal, continue to be exploited in terms of wages and benefits?
It is worth noting that despite being among the few countries to have very stringent laws workers are flagrantly denied their true rights in Pakistan.
Our bureau of statistics estimates the country’s workforce at 63 million. The labor law of the country mandates that every worker employed by anyone s entitled to minimum wage, social security benefits, yearly leave, and overtime that is double the average daily pay.
All the four provinces have social security departments to ensure social security benefits like free medical facilities and old age pension is available to all the workers. These departments collect certain percentage of workers monthly salary to establish hospitals, workers colonies, and ensure that they get pension after reaching age of 60.
Yet out of 63 million workforces, hardly 1.2 million workers are registered under the provincial social security setup. This is tragic that only 1.2 million workers are entitled to social security benefits. The state has abdicated its responsibility as far as the remaining 61.8 million workers are concerned.
Under the law an employer cannot fire a worker without legal notice and hefty severance but it is a norm in this country that gates of an office or a factory are abruptly closed on a worker who has been terminated. The legal remedy is painfully time-consuming. It also tarnishes the image of worker in the job market. Even star workers of an organisation are denied their due rights.
In the developed world an employer can hire and fire a worker at his discretion but as long as the worker is engaged he is entitled to all the benefits that are mandated by the law for the workers.
Even the household workers get paid minimum wage on hourly basis. It is not possible in developed economies for most of the middle class families to engage a housemaid for 24/7 because it is very expensive.
They instead hire them on hourly basis two or three time a week. No one in developed economies can dare to employ a child worker, household servant, or shop assistant.
The law would immediately come into action.
There is no difference as far as the minimum facilities to workers are concerned between permanent and contract workers. Both have to be paid at least the minimum wage.
Here workers who are not officially listed in the social security departments have no rights. These include contract workers, daily-wagers, and house servants. Helpers engaged by the shopkeepers and many other organisations are made to work for 12-16 hours on the pay that has been decided between workers and employers.
Powerful people including politicians have armies of such workers to serve them. Even civil rights activists engage domestic help. Same goes for the most of the labor union leaders.
One of the major impediments in ease of doing business in Pakistan is the stringent labour laws, which are blatantly abused.
The labor laws should be flexible but the implementation of laws should be very strict.
Child labour should be eliminated from every sphere and those employing children or exploiting labour should be dealt with accordingly.
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